Monday, 12 August 2013

A Day Out At Longleat Safari Park

We've been at Longleat today. Longleat (located in the county of Wiltshire) is the not-insubstantial ancestral pile of the Marquis of Bath, an eccentric member of the British Aristocracy whose main claim to fame is his large collection of mistresses (group name "wifeletts") who co-exist beside his wife. I suspect he would prefer to be Famous For His Art, but there you go: life isn't always fair is it.

Apparently, he has 75 wifeletts, or so I overheard a woman reading avidly from her smartphone tell her husband today. He, dressed in too-tight shorts above fat white legs crammed into off-white socks  pulled half-way up his legs and stuffed into dirty trainers, and a stained grey t-shirt that didn't stretch quite far enough thank you to cover his enormous flabby beer gut (which wobbled considerably as he heaved himself sweating up the steps), paused upon hearing this and said in a voice that radiated genuine incredulity: "that's not fair is it? I mean, why shouldn't I 'av some wifeletts for meself?"

Really? I thought. Really? And then I decided to be charitable, because we were having A Nice Day Out and I'd got over my earlier grump about being forced to sit for half an hour in a huge queue only to have the pleasure of handing over a hundred pounds to get in to Longleat and listen to people like this in the first place, (Aries, you see? No Patience). Perhaps, I thought, the poor man suffers from a Rare Genetic Disorder that means whenever he looks in the mirror he sees Brad Pitt looking back instead of Alf Garnet. I resisted the urge to tell him this and add "besides, you are not the heir to a vast country estate worth several cool millions", and contented myself by smiling into my sandwich instead when his wife opened her mouth and roared with laughter in the kind of utterly derisive and hope-crushing way only a wife can.

Longleat boasts the Largest Maze In Europe. I am scared of mazes: they give me the willies and induce sensations of Near Panic At The Thought Of Never Getting Out. All that endless hedge and narrow pathways stretching on into infinity with no hope of ever finding your way out. But today I allowed myself to be persuaded by my husband that there is a "solution to every maze" namely: you just Keep Turning Left (or right, if that's the way you have started). 

So In We Went To Test The Theory, the boys scampering off in the opposite direction the second the paths diverged. "YOU HAVE GOT YOUR MOBILES ON YOU, HAVEN'T YOU?" I yelled at their fast-disappearing backs.

After about a year (and having done several "anti-panicking" calming down measures and found myself wishing more than once I'd brought a paper bag to breath in to, or better still, had never gone into the bloody thing in the first place), the boys reappeared and we carried on together, and after a bit longer, believe it or not, we actually found ourselves at the centre! M will be unbearable now, especially as I mocked his maze-solving theory quite substantially during my crosser moments when I thought we were never going to get out of the damn thing alive.

After that we went into the house, and I saw this lovely bed, which was wide but not very long, and led me to wonder about exactly what kind of sleeping arrangements said beds were designed to accommodate. Perhaps wifeletts were not peculiar to the current incumbent of the title alone....

And this Horrible Thing (whatever it is)

Having a fairly small threshold for politely admiring wall paper, cutlery and other people's upholstery in darkened rooms where you can barely see them in the first place, and being no good at all at walking by with head bowed in a "surely we are not worthy to even look at these expensive aristo type things" way, whilst communing in suitably hushed and reverential whispers, we completed the house in double quick time, passing at least five guides who sniffed loudly and put their noses in the air so they could look down them at us as we scooted by, and emerged into the slaves' quarters (which we both enjoyed a lot more), before finally Regaining Daylight and finding this Rather Nice Lion who was hidden behind a gate marked "PRIVATE," whose instruction we ignored.

We collected the boys, who had very sensibly declined our offer to come with us round the house and were hanging around the front steps looking bored and therefore intimidating (this is a skill peculiar to teenagers), and went off to queue up for the boat to Gorilla Island, where we saw...Sealions.

And then the Gorilla!
He looks happy doesn't he?

After that the lads wanted to have a go in the pedalo, although their enthusiasm dimmed somewhat when they actually saw them. I suspect even most Toddlers wouldn't be seen dead in a giant green and purple dragon, so you can imagine what a 12 and 14 year old made of them. The 46 year old, however, had a great time.

It took them hours to get back to shore because they managed to get the only faulty pedalo in the batch, and by then everyone was exhausted, so it was time for the Highlight Of The Day and our real Purpose For Coming: the Animal Safari Park. For those of you who know nothing about Longleat, its main attraction is the huge acreage that has been devoted to Wild Animals you would only usually see in Africa. They Roam Free here (ish) and the land is bisected with roads so you can drive among them and pretend you are on a proper safari in Africa.

Perhaps we look better from this angle, or else this emu/ ostrich type person gets so bored with the cars going past and people stopping to stare he invents new ways to look at them in order to amuse himself and make the hours of daylight pass more quickly.

Gorgeous Deer in the deer park....

Lovely Rhino

Slightly intimidating when you realise that just out of shot there is an enormous tractor with a huge steel plate fixed to the front which is used to push the rhinos off any cars they show too much of an interest in.....

And then it was time for the Famous Longleat Monkeys...

Ahh, sweet and adorable Mummy With Tiny Baby, yes?

Erm, No.
Not when they are ripping the fabric off your very personalised spare-wheel cover on the back of your Very Expensive Looking Landrover.
I'm afraid we found this a good deal funnier than the owner of said Landy who went ballistic, slamming his hand on the horn and taking off across the pretend savannah at a tremendous pace as he swerved slalom-style to dislodge the monkey who clearly has experience of people reacting like this and was hanging on for dear life and grinning broadly enjoying the ride.
It goes without saying that we had taken M's car, and not my nice shiny new fiesta, even though the boys all voted otherwise (I told them they did not live in a democracy).

This lovely Ellie called Anne was next, and these pics are especially for my Ma, whose love of Ellies is well known

Then we came to the Big Cat Area.
I think the signs are Probably Quite Effective. 
We all wound our windows up sharpish at any rate.

I reckon the Lion is thinking: "That's it: keep on playing with your mobile, warden-boy, and you- won't-feel-a-thing when I leap up suddenly and Grab You....."

The Wolves were our main reason for coming to Longleat: L has a particular thing for them. I think they are Very Beautiful

All in all a Fab Day Out and one I would recommend. 

We got home to discover that several of the caterpillars have burst with parasitic wasps, which is delightful. I took some photos (of course) and will show you them another time, along with another Tawny Owl Pellet I found at Magdalen yesterday (which is an interesting shade of purple, presumably due to the ingestion of fresh blackberries). These delights will have to wait because we are about to have fish n' chips for supper and if I look at the pictures now I will feel sick.

Have a lovely evening all

CT :-)


  1. Sounds wonderful to me! I'm still thinking about the whole "wifeletts" thing. That's more than a little strange.

    1. The whole thing is very bizarre....

      The house is great and the grounds beautiful. If you're ever in the UK it is probably worth a visit :-)

  2. Hi Ct Well what a wonderful day out you had and well documented. I love seeing all the animals although I nearly died that it cost you £100 to get in! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Family days out are not cheap (which is why the majority of ours usually involve trips to the woods and the sea!) but it was great and everyone enjoyed themselves :-)

  3. I love your impression of Longleat; I had to laugh. Your photos are terrific, too - especially the sealion in the water and the emu/ostrich bird peering at everything upside down. The wifelett situation is very strange and I can just see the conversations it starts up between male and female visitors. The dragon ornament is horrible, isn't it?

    1. I thought it was a particularly nasty thing and have no idea what its purpose was, apart from to frighten visitors. It wasn't quite as bad, however, as a painting of the marquis and his kids with the wife standing naked in the background.....

  4. Love the ostrich pic. Perhaps he was feeling faint?

    1. It was one of those moments where you're just lucky to get the shot at the right moment. Far more fun than the other 3 pics I got, where he was staring normally at us!

  5. I can't bear mazes either! They raise in me a sense of irrational rage and panic. Got dragged into the one at Cliveden last month and it took me all of three minutes to start stomping about announcing, 'Well, if I find the exit before the centre, then I am going OUT!' And that is exactly what I did! And I found a bench upon which to sulk until everyone else appeared laughing about what fun mazes are! NO!!!

    Fab animal pics. Especially the tigers. I love tigers. But not in mazes. That would be craziness on a stick.

    1. That's because we are sensible people Denise x

  6. Wonderful entertaining post CT :) Did enjoy the ostrich photo although I felt rather sorry for the poor gorilla!! Whenever I hear the words Longleat from now on I will think of wifeletts!!! Daughter wanted to visit for her birthday day out a few years back but distance and cost (!!) put us off and we ended up at West Midlands Safari Park.

    1. I felt sorry for him too- not much of a life sitting on an island with people staring at you. The guide was at pains to tell us he has his own cottage complete with a TV, as if that somehow makes up for the lack of wilderness and freedom....

  7. You all had a fun day out at Longleat, I'm glad you got out of the maze in one piece! We took the children there when they were younger, lucky it didn't cost us so much as they got in free with their Blue Peter badges. We didn't look at the house. It must be hard work having 75 wifeletts!
    Sarah x

    1. I'd forgotten about Blue Peter badges- do they still do them I wonder?

      I wouldn't want 75 husbandletts that's for sure! :-)

  8. I do not have the temperament for mazes, and would refuse to go in! Weird guy, but the he's probably mad-but happy!
    Love the ostrich image. Those monkeys are naughty, my friends car winscreen wipers were pulled off by them-she laughed as it was her hubbys car!!!

    1. Your friend sounds like an eminently sensible woman! :-)

  9. I went to longleats when I was small! I think I have a t-shirt somewhere... don't suppose it will fit any more though! I think your sealion photo is fab! The wolf looks a little bit like Teddy - probably due to the colour of their fur but still!


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x